Wildlife: Nesting season begins for eagles, owls

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With the polar vortex still fresh on our minds, it almost seems silly to discuss nesting birds. But the nesting season begins in January for bald eagles and great horned owls.

On Jan. 14, an egg was laid in an eagle nest on the campus of Berry College in Georgia (www.georgiawildlife.com/BerryEagleCam). And in Pittsburgh, a pair of bald eagles put the finishing touches on a new nest just this week. The female will almost certainly lay her eggs before the end of the month. Monitor the Pittsburgh eagle nest at www.post-gazette.com/baldeagles.

Last year, the Pittsburgh eagles caused quite a sensation among the general public. The nest is located fewer than 5 miles from Downtown along the Monongahela River near Hays.

As I watched the nest-cam Thursday morning, both parents were arranging sticks in the nest as snow flurried. I could hear heavy equipment in the background. Gone are the days when bald eagles were considered a species of remote wilderness.

Great horned owls also begin nesting in January. I've been hearing a pair singing to each other since before Christmas. The female's voice is a bit higher pitched.

In Oklahoma City, a pair of great horned owls has adopted a second-story planter ledge as a place to nest. Last year, they fledged two young. This year the first egg appeared on Jan. 10; the second eggs arrived three days later. Monitor this nest at www.birdnote.org/nestcam/great-horned-owl-nestcam-oklahoma-city. There's even a clip of the female laying the second egg.

Bald eagles and great horned owls nest early because they need time to raise a family. Incubation lasts up to 35 days, and the young remain in the nest for at least 10 weeks. After fledging, young bald eagles and great horned owls are cared for by their parents for several months until they become independent. That leaves the juvenile birds just a month or two to perfect their hunting skills before winter arrives.

Enjoy the nest-cams listed above and watch these birds grow, develop and mature.

Biologist, author, and broadcaster Scott Shalaway can be heard 8 to 10 a.m. Saturdays on 1370 WVLY-AM (Wheeling) or online at www.wvly.net. Or visit his website www.drshalaway.com or contact him directly at sshalaway@aol.com or 2222 Fish Ridge Road, Cameron, WV 26033.

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